Thursday, February 28, 2008

Is the social networking boom losing momentum?

Our latest column for Travel Weekly:

There are murmurings in the force about the sustainability and usefulness of social networks.

Last year saw the huge growth of Facebook and Bebo, and the continued dominance of MySpace.

For every cynic in travel, there was an e-commerce boss ‘looking at launching a social network’ at the height of the frenzy last summer.

But while Facebook might have taken a hit on its user numbers between December 2007 and January 2008, questions remain as to the long-term viability of social networks per se.
Some sites are seeing a decline in user engagement and monetising the concept is proving difficult for many.

Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and travel network would appear at this stage to be somewhat protected simply by virtue of the volume of users interacting with the sites.

They pretty much caught the wave on its way up.

But ask many of those refuseniks from last year and they will feel somewhat justified that they didn’t spend fortunes developing and maintaining social networks.

The issue here is primarily one of scale and an ability – or inability – to target an audience and add value to their time on the web.

We are hearing increasingly how travel companies are desperate to reach these network-obsessed users, but are thinking the best method will be to hit them in the existing networks, such as Facebook, through widgets and applications.

Where social networks might work is when they are driven – once again, like the perennial Long Tail of Travel theory – into specific niches.

The new business social network for small operators and niche agencies is a good example.

Cliche corner, but time will tell; this is still a relatively new area for businesses and consumers. Nobody will risk dismissing ideas at a time when a point of difference is so important.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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1 comment:

Darren Cronian said...

sending this via mobile. Hope it works. Id like to see a single membership like open where you register once for different networking sites.